Ethnic Studies

Meet Ethnic Studies Alumnae

Kristin Black
Class of 2004
PhD, Maternal and Child Health

Kristen Black“Training in ethnic studies truly transcends various disciplines and what I learned then is still relevant to me now as I pursue my doctoral degree in public health.”

Awards and honors:

  • Christine LaFia Award, 2004, for dedication to the Mills community and high academic achievement, given to one senior per year.
  • Mills of Color Award (MOCA), “Outstanding Senior”, 2004, Mills of Color Award (MOCA), “Solid Rock Award”, 2004, for providing solid commitment and dedication to diversity and social justice at Mills; dependable, reliable, and participated in various events.
  • Mills of Color Award (MOCA), “Impact Award”, 2004, for making a significant impact on the Mills campus.
  • Palladium Award, 2003, for academic success and serving the Mills community.
  • Scholar-Athlete Award (Crew team), 2001–2002.

What are you doing now and what What are the highlights of your achievements or experiences since graduation?
I recently received my Master of Public Health (MPH) degree and certificate in Interdisciplinary Health Disparities from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health this past May 2011. I am currently continuing my studies at UNC in the Department of Maternal and Child Health as a PhD student, which I began in August 2011. During the 2010–2011 academic year, I co-chaired the Minority Student Caucus’ 32nd Annual Minority Health Conference, which is the largest and longest-running student-led health conference in the country and participated in the Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training Program. Upon graduation, I was inducted into Delta Omega, the honorary public health society, which is an honor given to the top 10% of each department in the School of Public Health and I was one of three students in my department to receive the honor in 2011. This academic year (2011–2012), I am serving as a co-president of the Gillings School of Global Public Health Minority Student Caucus, which is a student organization that works with the school administration to advocate for the needs of students of color.

How did your Ethnic Studies degree prepare you for your current position?
My senior thesis was entitled, “Lupus and African American Women: The Effects of Social Conditions on Health.” Even back then, I was applying the concepts and theories of ethnic studies to a public health framework that I now recognize as health disparities. Books, such as Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought, Omi & Winant’s Racial Formation in the United States, and Krupat & Swann’s Here First that still reside on my bookshelf, have equipped me to analyze public health topics through the lens of the history, culture, and perspective of people of color in the United States. I innately see the importance of examining the intersectionality of race/ethnicity, class, and gender, which is deeply rooted in health disparities literature and sometimes difficult for other students in my cohort to embrace or fully comprehend. Training in ethnic studies truly transcends various disciplines and what I learned then is still relevant to me now as I pursue my doctoral degree in public health.

How did being a part of the Ethnic Studies community at Mills change you?
During my time as an Ethnic Studies student at Mills, a significant amount of personal growth occurred through my struggles. As a result, I became more confident in my writing skills, gained a sense of courage to analyze topics of interest that were not necessarily popular, and learned what it truly takes to be a leader in all areas of my life. Some of the lessons, I learned inside and outside of the classroom from Professors Oparah, Micco, Chin, and Santana, still resurface in my mind from time to time and place a smile on my face. They said things that challenged my perspective at the time and forced me to look at my place in the world differently. I definitely received the perfect balance of nurture and nature from the Ethnic Studies community to light the fire under me and successfully move in the right direction. I believe that I am a more thoughtful, compassionate, and intellectually fierce individual because of my experiences as an Ethnic Studies student.

What life lessons would you like to offer to current Ethnic Studies majors and minors?
1) Take advantage of every opportunity and resource that comes your way. People say and hear this all of the time, but proactively engaging in your current environment will only make you a more well-equipped individual once you graduate.
2) With #1 in mind, do not overwhelm yourself. Mills women tend to be go-getters. Yet, taking on too many activities may interfere with you fully enjoying your undergraduate years. So, be thoughtful in the way you choose to spend your time.
3) If you do not have a hobby, it is a good time to discover one. Having a passion that is not linked to school will help you find that sometimes difficult to maneuver school-life balance.
4) Seek out a suitable internship in your areas of interest and use this experience as a time to discover how a degree in ethnic studies applies to various disciplines and what you may desire from future employment.
5) Overall, enjoy this time in your life! Attend guest lectures, participate in campus activities, join a student organization, sprawl out on Toyon Meadow, exchange stories and laughs in the dining halls, swim in the pool, and cherish your friendships. Every moment you spend at Mills, will be memories you will reflect on and cherish for years to come.

What are your future goals?
My research interests are in preconception health, health disparities, and pregnancy outcomes. I am particularly interested in chronic disease disparities among women and how chronic illness impacts reproductive health and birth outcomes. I envision a professional career where I am able to put my research into practice. Therefore, my desire is to join the ranks of the public health researchers who are dedicated to examining the issues that pertain to health disparities and working to put research into action, so that effective interventions are implemented. Ultimately, I want to be able to blend my passion for preconception health and chronic disease disparities to become a reproductive health epidemiologist or a health disparities researcher.